Friday, June 17, 2011

Why people stick by scandal-plagued pastors

The streets that were once choked with traffic are now bare. The church's sprawling parking lot is half full. Inside the stylish sanctuary, ushers sway to choir music in front of empty seats.

On a typical Sunday morning, New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta would be hopping. But on a recent Sunday, the sprawling church complex looked half-deserted and the mood seemed flat.

Six months after a sex scandal involving New Birth's senior pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, became public, the megachurch no longer packs them in. Yet there are loyalists, like C.D. Dixon, who have not joined the exodus.

"I come back to the church even more now because the word is more powerful," she said as she stood with a serene smile in the parking lot before a recent service.

Last fall, four young men accused Long of using his spiritual authority to pressure them into sexual relationships, charges that Long has vehemently denied. On Thursday, lawyers for the four men released a statement saying only that "the matter has been resolved." (read more)